96. Kvelertak, 'Meir' (2013)
Metal in the 2010s is almost absurdly balkanized, a sea of disconnected subscenes. Think of Kvelertak as the genre's loutish, lovable unifiers, smashing through metal's stylistic barriers, Kool-Aid Man–style, and bringing the fun back. These hard-touring Norwegians – whose name means "Stranglehold" – started strong with their self-titled 2010 debut, but their second LP, Meir ("More"), felt like a benchmark for contemporary metal as a whole, an album that playfully, raucously muddied lingering distinctions between mainstream and underground styles. Throughout the record, vocalist Erlend Hjelvik screams and bellows exclusively in Norwegian, but the band's riffs speak a universal language: "Spring Fra Livet" ("Run From Life") juggles rough-and-tumble boogie rawk and hurtling tremolo-picked black metal, while "Bruane Brenn" ("Burning Bridges") charges ahead like a bruising, midtempo hardcore pit-starter before making way for a shamelessly bombastic hair-metal guitar breakdown. It all culminates in closing track "Kvelertak," a slab of stomping scuzz rock delivered with Twisted Sister–level abandon. "Our guitarist [Bjarte Lund Rolland], who is the guy who pretty much makes all of the music, is a living music library," Hjelvik said in 2013. "He listens to everything from Marvin Gaye to Beach Boys to Darkthrone to Rush. He cherry-picks all the good parts and puts it in our music. That approach seems to be working so far." He's right: Despite the singer's unwaveringly raw delivery, Meir topped the Norwegian charts and earned the band a Spellemann award (Norway's equivalent to a Grammy) for best metal album. H.S.